The rain in Japan is separating the sheep from the goats. There are bikes that work well in the rain, and they are up at the front, and there are bikes that don’t, and they are struggling. Including, well, the GOAT, to extend a metaphor.
The 2017 Yamaha M1 simply does not work well in the wet. “Sincerely we tried to do a lot of things with the bike but we are in trouble,” Valentino Rossi said after finishing the day in twelfth, over a second and a half slower than the fastest man Andrea Dovizioso.
“We don’t understand why. Because last year I was very competitive in the wet. I had a good feeling with the old bike. But this year we are struggling. Something strange.”
The problem is mainly wheelspin and rear traction. “We’ve been struggling all the time with rear grip,” Maverick Viñales said, agreeing with his Movistar Yamaha teammate.
“We change a lot the bike during all the practices but finally the same problem remains. It’s been very difficult for us during all of this year trying to be fast and competitive.”
Jonas Folger has been forced to pull out of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, and may be absent for the remainder of the overseas triple-header as well.
The German has been taken ill with what could potentially be a recurrence of the Epstein-Bar Virus, which he suffered from previously. Japanese test rider Kohta Nozane is to replace him in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team for the Motegi round at least.
Folger took ill on his travels to Japan, suffering from a complete lack of energy, forcing him to miss a number of official Yamaha events. He had hoped that some rest would mean he was strong enough to race at Motegi, but rest has not helped.
In the week in which MotoGP marks ten years since the remarkable Norick Abe tragically died in a traffic accident (an occasion which MotoGP.com is marking by posting videoes of some of Abe’s career highlights on their Facebook page, news comes of extra Japanese presence at the Motegi round of MotoGP.
There will be at least two Japanese riders on the grid for the start of the race on Sunday, 15th October.
With Australian rider Jack Miller out through injury, the Marc VDS Honda team will be fielding Hiroshi Aoyama as a replacement at Motegi.
The choice of Aoyama should come as no real surprise: the former 250cc champion is one of HRC’s official test riders, and still heavily involved in Honda’s MotoGP effort, and especially with the development of the Honda RC213V.
The 2017 season has claimed another training victim. This time, Jack Miller is the victim of misfortune, the Australian breaking his right leg while out trials riding in Andorra.
Miller was relatively fortunate, in that he suffered the injury at very low speed, putting his foot down trying to save the front-end from washing out. However, his foot got stuck, causing the tibia to fracture just below the knee.
With all of our hosts at different corners of the world, Episode 40 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is now available and features the insights of David Emmett and Scott Jones. Discussing the MotoGP happenings at Motegi, David and Scott give a trackside perspective of the Japanese GP.
Of course, a good chunk of the conversation is about Marc Marquez wrapping up the MotoGP Championship, which means that there has to be a discussion about the crashes of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo as well.
The show wraps up with some rumormongering about the changes to the 2017 MotoGP machinery, and the guys give a preview of the Australian GP at Phillip Island, which is already shaping up to be an interesting race weekend.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Chasing down a championship lead can be both liberating and extremely stressful. On the one hand, your objective is simple: beat the rider who is leading the championship, and try to outscore them by as much as possible.
On the other hand, you have to take more risk, as riding conservatively means you risk not scoring enough points to close the gap to the leader. Finding the balance between the two is always difficult.
Defending a championship lead is just as stressful. The best way to defend it is to keep trying to win races, and make it as hard as possible for your rivals to catch you.
But winning races means taking risks, and a crash can mean throwing away a big chunk of your lead in a single race. Riding conservatively is not necessarily an easier option: it is paradoxically harder to ride just off the pace than right on the pace, requiring more focus and concentration to manage the race.
Giving away points every race can be like Chinese water torture, your rivals closing the gap with each drip. Tension rises every race, and containing it without bursting is extremely stressful.
The Motegi MotoGP race provided a perfect example of both of these situations. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo came into the Japanese Grand Prix knowing that they had to win the race if they were to retain any hope of keeping the 2016 MotoGP title out of Marc Márquez’ hands.
The job was significantly easier for Rossi than for Lorenzo. Outscoring an opponent by 52 points in four races is easier than trying to make up a deficit of 66 points. Conversely, that put more pressure on Rossi: keeping an achievable target within reach makes winning paramount.
It came as a surprise to just about everyone involved, but Motegi saw Marc Marquez clinch the 2016 MotoGP World Championship title. Winning the Japanese GP in the process, this victory marks Marquez’s fifth World Championship, and spurs the “Give Me 5” slogan for the affair.
While many tipped Marquez to clinch the 2016 MotoGP Championship, it was expected to occur later in the season, as the mathematics to the Japanese required not only Marquez winning the race, but also Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo achieving lackluster results as well.
These two rivals rarely make mistakes, so a race outcome where both Rossi and Lorenzo would find themselves far down in the race results would truly be a massive improbability.
But, this is exactly how race day at the Japanese GP played out, with Lorenzo, then Rossi, crashing out as they pushed to catch the Repsol Honda rider, who lead them.
If anyone was nostalgic for the days of 500cc two strokes, they got a glimpse of what the dark side of that era was like this weekend at Motegi.
Rider after rider has been flung from his bike, spat into the air as a rear tire slipped then bit again, snapping the bike around, suspension compressing and then explosively decompressing, catapulting the rider into the sky.
It has kept the medical helicopter busy: Eugene Laverty and Jorge Lorenzo have been flown to and fro for medical examination, with the second helicopter kept on standby having to take its place.
On Friday, the victims had been Eugene Laverty and Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa had paid the heaviest price, snapping his right collarbone and flying home to Spain for another operation – his fourteenth, by all counts.
Laverty had escaped relatively lightly, but was still forced to sit out the morning session on Saturday as a precaution. Jorge Lorenzo was even more fortunate. He was launched at Turn 3 at the end of FP3, and had to be flown to hospital for checks, before being allowed to return and take part in FP4.
He feared he had damaged his left ankle, but checks revealed it was just bruising.